Tamarindo vs. Santa Teresa

Costa Rica may sit high at the top ranks of the tropic’s best, but the country is still speckled with underrated hidden gems. Most of which are waiting to make buzz across the traveling community. Well, maybe not for long. Tamarindo and Santa Teresa are two perfect examples of Costa Rica’s hidden gems. They are both unassuming, slow, and chill, but pack quite a ton of draws enough for even celebrities to set up homes.
Tamarindo vs. Santa Teresa

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Tamarindo is a surfer’s paradise, with a pinch of tranquility, and a night of interesting laid-back fun. Santa Teresa is even smaller, undeveloped, and more relaxed. But the small-town gem is making trends among the millennial lot for its charm. Head to Costa Rica’s Pacific shores and you’ll find these two for their distinct appeal.


This town is a surfer’s paradise and a millennial’s secret spot tucked away on Costa Rica’s Pacific shores. Tamarindo is a haven for travelers shying away from the mainstream locales. It is famous among laid-back, slow-traveling folks, and watersport enthusiasts. You can have a bit of everything you could want from a Costa Rican getaway here.

The town can be unassuming and seemingly simple. But its local scenes and culture have caught the attention of many avid globetrotters and even celebrities. You can enjoy the azure waves, underwater wonders, and the rich nature here. And if you’re down for some local vibes, Tamarindo is both a party central and a relaxing haven.

What Makes Tamarindo Unique?

Water Activities Central

Tamarindo is a thriving beach town in southern Costa Rica, filled with natural inland and aquatic features. Thanks to its coastal address, the town receives outstanding waves and gorgeous sunsets. Plus, it also boasts conditions that are just perfect for a trip filled with aquatic thrills.


Its most famous water activity, surfing is more than ideal in Tamarindo. One of the premier surfing paradises in Costa Rica, the waters of Tamarindo are perfect for the sport. The playas provide conditions that are perfect for all levels, whether you’re a beginner or a pro. The wave sizes are varied depending on what area of town, and most of them are consistent and large.

If you’re a non-surfer looking to learn, you can get started on Tamarindo Beach’s gentle breaks. The beach is perfect for beginners and learners. You can also find plenty of surf shops here eager to help you get started.

For surfing experts and seasoned pros, larger waves across the entire stretch of town can actually still give challenges. The waves in Playa Langosta and Playa Grande are ideal for a more experienced lot. You can find solid, consistent, and powerful breaks on any of those beaches.

Sport Fishing

Tamarindo lies in close proximity to some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds. This area is known for its sport fishing charters and great catch. Sportfishing has become so popular in this part of Costa Rica that there are numerous fishing charters to choose from.

You can find an abundance of fish of different sizes even just three miles (4.8 km) from the shores of Tamarindo. However, your potential catch depends on the season you’re visiting. It is best to research beforehand to set expectations. Or, you can always ask fishing charters about what you can catch in a given area, on the season.

Different charters offer you different packages for your fishing charter, either you can get a half-day of sport fishing or a full day of fishing. You can catch fish such as Mahi-Mahi, Yellowfin Tuna, Sailfish, and many more.

Scuba Diving

Since Tamarindo’s fishing scene is top-notch, you can also expect its diving scene to be spectacular as well. Grab some scuba gear if you want to explore more of Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife.

The Pacific Ocean is home to tropical fish and other sea species that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Expect to find species of fish that are just spectacular, making diving in Tamarindo a must-do.


You can easily find plenty of opportunities for snorkeling as well. Thanks to the availability of scuba diving around the Pacific Coasts of Costa Rica. In fact, you can book a scuba diving tour along with a snorkeling tour.

Schools of fish call Costa Rica’s Pacific coast home. The little harbor and islands right off the coast of Tamarindo provide excellent habitat. Any Tamarindo snorkeling excursion will take you out to the Pacific. Expect to encounter a variety of tropical fish, sea turtles, enormous manta rays, and possibly, white-tipped sharks.

The Beaches

Golden sunsets, golden rays, and even golden sands define the beaches of Tamarindo, one of Southern Costa Rica’s best destinations. If you’re up for a beach town brimming with excitement and not just mere sights and beauty, head down to Tamarindo’s hit roster.

However, the caveat is how waves on most of these beaches can be large and powerful. Always ask about beach conditions before visiting. You have seven beaches to choose from, so you’re sure to still enjoy the best of Tamarindo no matter what the conditions are.

Here are three of the most popular:

Tamarindo Beach

This iconic beach is the one responsible for putting the town on the map. Tamarindo’s smooth, golden-ish sands and small to large waves stretch for several miles.

Playa Tamarindo is one of the best beaches in Tamarindo, despite being bordered by restaurants and shops. You’ll be met with a lovely beachfront dotted with palm trees, excellent surfer viewing, and the warm sun. The waves are ideal for surfers of all levels, so you can even learn to surf here.

Playa Grande

Playa Grande sits north of Tamarindo, yet another icon, Playa Grande is perhaps second to Tamarindo Beach. Known for nature-lovers, animal welfare advocates, and surfers, Playa Grande indeed is as synonymous as its name.

Playa Grande, located within the Las Baulas National Marine Park, is a nesting place for leatherback turtles. They are the world’s largest and most endangered marine turtle.

Furthermore, this large beach is a popular destination for beginner and experienced surfers. It is also a favorite of beachgoers looking for a peaceful place to stroll, sunbathe, and construct sandcastles.

Playa Langosta

Just a mile south of Tamarindo, you can find the lovely stretch of white sands and rocky edges of Playa Langosta. This beach is noticeably less-developed and quieter than Tamarindo Beach.

Langosta Beach has a laid-back vibe and a shoreline bordered by palm trees. Langosta is a favorite among families because of its calm tidal pools. Everyone loves it because of its scenic setting, and breathtaking sunsets. It is also near to all the surf shops, restaurants, and other amenities you need for a day at the beach.

Las Baulas National Marine Park

This is one of the most important marine parks in Costa Rica. Las Baulas National Marine Park helps save the dwindling number of Leatherback turtles. This marine park was established in 1990 to safeguard the endangered Leatherback turtles. They tend to come to nest on the sands of the picturesque Playa Grande every year.

The Marino las Baulas National Park, spanning 1,099 acres or 445 hectares of mangrove swamps and coastline, is made up of four beaches. You can easily walk around Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, Playa Ventanas, and Playa Carbon from here.

The Estero de Tamarindo and the Estero de San Francisco are the park’s two mangrove estuaries, with the former being the largest in Latin America. You can actually take an estuarine tour here by boat, apart from the many things you can do.

A Party Town

A hit for millennials, laid-back, and a surfer’s paradise, you can expect to find that Tamarindo is a party town. Although it is family-friendly, you can’t deny how Tamarindo can be hip, young, and endlessly interesting. This is a party town with a plethora of venues to visit, especially bars to get some of that good booze.

From the mellow ambiance, chaotic scenes, family places, to late-night spots, Tamarindo has it all. There is a fantastic party scene in Tamarindo, from dancing the night away at Crazy Monkey Bar or Pacifico to listening to live music on the beach. You can also participate in the Beach & Pool Crawl on Sundays for more beach, drinks, and pool parties.

Santa Teresa

This is an up-and-coming Costa Rican gem perfect for the new-age, slow-living millennial traveling folks. Santa Teresa is a trending destination. This quiet town sports some of the best surf in the country and an atmosphere made for short-stay living, not commercial mass tourism.

Santa Teresa is a quiet town nestled near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica. The small gem is unassuming, laid-back, and pristine, perfect for your off-the-beaten-path travel needs. You can enjoy a plethora of activities here from surfing to ecotours, along with Costa Rica’s best features.

What Makes Santa Teresa Unique?

A Surf Village

Chill, slow-living, and white-sand beaches define most of Santa Teresa’s outward beauty. But its true gem is the consistent surf you’ll see on all of its beaches. A small thriving surf village, Santa Teresa is quickly becoming a millennial favorite. It is especially famous among the water-sporting lot.

As you walk down the beach, you’ll see local and international surfers navigating the incredible breakers. The coastal stretch of the town also offers magnificent views, an ideal backdrop for surfers and swimmers alike. The coast is also bordered by lovely palm trees and jungles on hills. This makes  Santa Teresa rich in natural landscape features as well.

The place used to be only heavily congregated by seasoned pros and beginner surfers. They have dominated the shores and streets of Santa Teresa. Now, heaps of sunseekers, backpackers, and digital nomads have joined the ranks. Flooding the town with its well-deserved recognition.

Thanks to constant waves of beach bums and surfers, the town has grown and developed. Though Santa Teresa still offers that off-the-beaten and rustic feel, you can find numerous things to do other than the beach, waves, and sun.

Without the presence of big resorts, and luxury chains, Santa Teresa can feel like home. You have homegrown beach homes, hostels, and boutique hotels for accommodation. But with the recent influx of international businesses, you can find a plethora of restaurants. Most of which are serving different cuisines from Asia all the way to Latin America.

With all its subtle changes, balanced with authenticity and simplicity, Santa Teresa is a haven for the adventurous youth.

The Beaches

Santa Teresa’s beaches are slowly becoming a hit on the Nicoya Peninsula. It boasts long white-sand stretches, rugged edges, and excellent windbreaks. It is now one of Costa Rica’s rising stars, the beaches in Santa Teresa are simple, rustic, and picturesque.

Playa Santa Teresa

Playa Santa Teresa, from its namesake, is the town’s main beach and is by default the most crowded one. You can easily do plenty of things here apart from the usual beach lounging and swimming. It is the most happening part of town.

But perhaps, the most famous activity here is surfing. A congregating hub for surfers of all levels, you can surf-watch, or learn how to surf in Playa Santa Teresa. The waves are stronger, hollower, and faster here. For skilled surfers, Playa Santa Teresa is ideal, especially when there is a decent swell.

Playa Hermosa

Playa Hermosa is one of the greatest beaches for surf training and is located at the northern end of Santa Teresa. It has a milder wave and is ideal for novices, particularly when the waves are smaller. The beach is ideal for instruction, and there are surf shops all across Santa Teresa where you can sign up. Surf lessons and board rentals are available at several hotels.

The beach isn’t only ideal for surfing. With many hotels lined along the shore, you can also kick back and relax. You can also see many people strolling around here enjoying the view. The beach holds some of the most beautiful views in the country, it is called “Hermosa” (beautiful), after all.

Playa Carmen

Sunbathers and surfers flock to Playa Carmen because of the long beach break. Even at night, when the waves are lit by flashlights, you can surf. Swimming is not recommended in Playa Carmen because the waves might be dangerous.

It is also close to Santa Teresa’s major commercial district. It has two banks, a pharmacy, car rental agencies, physicians’ offices, stores, and restaurants.

You may visit Santa Teresa Beach and the so-called Mal Pas Beach. Both of which are noted for their beautiful natural surroundings, thanks to the hotel’s privileged location. Playa Carmen is clearly one of the hidden gems that you must visit if visiting Mal Paraiso or Santa Teresa.

Cabo Blanco National Park

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve is located on the Nicoya Peninsula’s southern point. Costa Rica’s first national protected area was established here. It was established in 1963, before the establishment of the national park system, which continues to this day.

The reserve was established to safeguard the area from deforestation, thanks in large part to the work of the late Olof Wessberg. He raised funds from a number of European countries to fund the project. It’s not difficult to get here from Santa Teresa or Mal Paraiso.

The Cabo Blanco Reserve is made up of 7,586 acres (3,070 hectares) of protected territory. The reserve’s elevation ranges from sea level to 5 meters (16 feet). It safeguards environments such as rainforests, beaches, mangroves, and rivers. There are several well-maintained hiking routes.

There are a lot of animals in this remote reserve. You can see well-protected land animals such as large cats and primates. Reptiles are also protected in the reserve such as iguanas, and boa constrictors. And for birdwatchers, brown pelicans, sandpipers, frigate birds, and seagulls can be spotted.

Is Tamarindo or Santa Teresa Better?

When it comes to a destination where you can do a lot, and do the most, you can expect to have them all in Tamarindo. From surfing, and natural wonders, to nightlife, Tamarindo offers more thrills for a laid-back and simple town. You can have all the necessary highs while being complemented by the incredible gifts of nature around.

While Santa Teresa is also a spectacle in itself, it is best for the relaxed, slow traveler. Cheap, quaint, and quirky Santa Teresa provides a lazier vibe. Best for strolling, kicking back, and the occasional surf. That is if you’re one to surf.


How Far Is Santa Teresa From Tamarindo?

Despite being in the southern reaches of Costa Rica, Santa Teresa and Tamarindo are far from each other. The two Costa Rican gems are approximately 64 miles or 103 km apart, directly. The road distance is about 92 miles or 148.2 km and typically takes around 11 to 12 hours to drive.